This past spring, I found myself mixed up in a series of hiring and job application ordeals. My wife went through a rigorous string of interviews for a new position. I wrote half a dozen recommendation letters for friends. As a member of a departmental search committee, I read CVs from hundreds of potential professors, attended live teaching workshops, had drinks with candidates.

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

The story you are about to read is true. First, some background. A few years ago, I made my living exclusively as a freelance writer. During this time, I wrote for a variety of clients—from Time Warner who owns everything to a printing company in Blue Ridge, Georgia that didn’t even own a telephone (amazingly, they were the only client I’ve ever had that paid in full and on time). Anyway, the hardest part of being a freelance writer—other than trying to cope with the constant soul-destroying anxiety of whether or not you’ll pay your rent that month—is landing an interview for a gig. And that’s where our story begins.

—–

FADE IN.

EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING
It’s February in Philadelphia and this high rise, which looks startlingly like the building from “Good Times,” is blanketed in snow.

INT. APARTMENT
Even more depressing than the outside of the building is this apartment: tiny, cramped, and sterile. The walls of the 500 sq. ft. unit are closing in on ROB, early 30s, unshaven and, as a result of the long Philadelphia winter, pasty white. The phone rings. The caller is male with an incredible Russian accent.

ROB
Hello?

RUSSIAN MAN (Off Screen)
You answered ad. How soon you be here?

ROB
I answered a few ads. Are you from Craig’s List?

RUSSIAN MAN (Off Screen)
You be here in twenty minutes.

INT. BATHROOM – LATER
Desperately trying to make himself presentable, Rob splashes water on his hair and plucks away at a straggly unibrow. Disgusted by his pasty complexion, he takes a bottle of his wife’s Self Tanner, squeezes a comically large glob into his hands, and begins smearing it all over his face.

EXT. CENTER CITY – DAY
Rob, his skin a ridiculous shade of dark orange, stands on the sidewalk, staring at the unmarked building in front of him.

ROB
This can’t be right.

INT. BUILDING – CONTINUOUS
It’s a very long, poorly lit hallway. Ahead, a piece of white paper showing a crudely drawn arrow, hangs on a wall. Rob continues walking and comes to a glass door that’s been blackened out. He opens it and walks inside.

INT. OFFICE – CONTINUOUS
There is clearly some type of business going on here, but exactly what type is unknown. A black leather sofa is pressed against a mirrored wall. A SECRETARY, Russian, not a day over 18, her curvaceous body stuffed in a tight, plastic dress, sits behind a metallic silver desk.

ROB
Hi, I’m Rob Bloom.

SECRETARY
We’ve been expecting you. Sit.

Rob sits on the couch. Meanwhile, an attractive, muscular man who towers over six feet tall, struts in the office and down a hallway. Shortly thereafter, two gorgeous women with big hair, big lips and big breasts, both well over six feet, walk down the same hallway. Suddenly KURT, 35, tall, muscular, his black hair pulled into a ponytail, walks up. He speaks in a thick Russian accent.

KURT
We spoke on phone. I am Kurt. Come.

Rob follows Kurt down a long hallway filled with many doors. As they walk, Rob tries to glimpse into some of the rooms along the way. In one, he sees an attractive woman, wearing only a trench coat and spiked high heels, lying on a couch and talking into a video camera.

KURT
Through here.

Rob enters a room with floor to ceiling mirrors and a ceiling covered in soundproof foam. Kurt sits in a tall chair and motions for Rob to take the couch. He does and sinks like a stone into the cushions.

KURT
Drink?

ROB
No, I’m fine. Thanks.

Kurt says nothing and continues staring at Rob. Suddenly, he begins shouting instructions in Russian. Moments later, the Secretary enters carrying a tray with a coffee pot and two empty cups. She places the tray on a table beside Kurt who has yet to take his eyes off Rob. She leaves, closing the door behind her. Kurt takes the pot and fills both cups to the top.

KURT

Drink.

ROB
What is it?

KURT
Like coffee.

KURT (raising his glass)
To your future.

They drink. Rob takes a sip and begins coughing furiously.

KURT
Problem?

Rob, tears streaming down his cheeks, shakes his head no.

KURT
Good.

Taking the pot, Kurt pours more “coffee” into Rob’s cup.

KURT
We drink.

Rob, now sweating, takes another sip and again, goes into a coughing fit. He places the cup down on the table beside him and wipes his dripping brow.

ROB
Whew, it’s a bit hot in here, huh?

Kurt says nothing. Rob laughs nervously as sweat—and self tanner—run down his face.

KURT
Enough games. Why you want job?

ROB
Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what this job is.

Rob’s sweating is now out of control. Also out of control is the self tanner, which continues to ooze and has begun to absorb through Rob’s shirt. (WRITER’S NOTE: Yes, I applied the tanner to my neck, chest, and arms. I wanted it to look natural, okay? Who are you to judge me?!?)

The combination of tanner and sweat has caused large orange/brown patches to appear everywhere—Rob’s armpits, stomach, and, of course, in the form of two dinner plate-sized circles around his nipples. Kurt remains stone faced. Suddenly, he begins shouting in Russian. Moments later, TIFFANY, Russian, mid 40s, blonde, busty, and also well over six feet, enters the room. Dressed in a skintight leopard-print leotard, Tiffany is equal parts James Bond villain and animatronic figure.

TIFFANY
I am Tiffany.

Rob stands up to greet Tiffany who dwarfs him. They shake hands and Rob winces at her strength.

KURT
Sit.

Tiffany and Kurt stare at Rob who’s a mess with streaks of orange and brown running down his cheeks. Slowly, they raise their coffee cups and begin to drink. Slowly. The temperature in the room seems to have gone up ten degrees and the mirrored walls are starting to fog. Kurt removes a cigarette from his front shirt pocket and places it, slowly, between his lips. He hands a lighter to Tiffany who leans over—way over—to light the cigarette. When she does, Rob gets a long look at her plastic surgeon’s handiwork. Still, no one speaks. Rob, who is now drenched in sweat and tanner, fidgets nervously in his chair. He wipes his soaked forehead, making gigantic discolored streaks across his face. Kurt passes the cigarette to Tiffany who takes a long drag. Meanwhile, the silence continues.

ROB
So…what exactly do you do here?

Like a volcano erupting, Kurt and Tiffany explode into a tirade of Russian, literally screaming at one another. Tiffany is screaming and waving her arms in the air while Kurt, his face beet red with anger, does the same. The look on Rob’s face says it all: he’s wondering a) how in the hell he’s going to get out of here and b) how he can possibly convey this story in writing. Then, as quickly as the volcano erupted, it stops. Silence. Kurt and Tiffany stand from their chairs and stare down at Rob. Finally, Kurt smiles.

KURT
We let you know.

FADE OUT.

—–

In case you’re wondering:

No, I didn’t get the job (or find out what the job was, for that matter).

No, I haven’t used self tanner since.

No, I didn’t respond when Kurt e-mailed me six months ago, asking if I was available to meet about an emergency project.